Valley of the dolls is about three women and their path into and along stardom. Anne is a frigid woman from New Jersey who moves to New York and gets a job for a theatre-lawyer-guy. She gets proposed to immediately by a wealthy guy, but turns him down for an Englishman with glorious hair. He, in turn, dumps her because he’s an artist, and then Anne becomes a famous model for a make-up brand.
Anne meets Neely O’Hara, back when they’re still poor. Neely can sing and Anne uses her job with the lawyer-guy to get Neely a part in a big musical. Neely becomes famous, but, also, a total diva.
Then there’s Jennifer who just sort of appears…She’s really nice, her breasts are FANTASTIC, and she once had an abusive love affair with a Spanish woman which turns out to be of no consequence at all. A lot of the book is like this, skirting across surfaces, leaving the reader to piece together emotions and consequences from the superficial writing.
“People parted, years passed, they met again- and the meeting proved no reunion, offered no warm memories, only the acid knowledge that time had passed and things weren’t as bright or attractive as they had been.”
This book is lauded as being incredibly sexy, but it’s mostly just 28-year old women examining the firmness of their breasts in a mirror, which like, if that’s your thing, no judgement.
Valley of the dolls is, however, a novel about control and what happens when you give it up. All these women are talented or intelligent (except for Jennifer whose only positive aspect is her bangin’ bod and her perky boobies), but they compromise it all for men.
“Anytime you put up with a man’s company when you can’t stand him you should have something to show for it.”
They take pills (“dolls”) to lose weight to please the men, they take pills to sleep more so they won’t look ugly to the men. Then they’re really unhappy so they take more pills to wake up, go to sleep, to take back control.
“Close friendships with girls come early in life. After thirty it becomes harder to make new friends —there are fewer hopes, dreams or anticipations to share.”
I’m sure it was pretty scandalous when it was published in the 60’s, probably even more so because the author used to be in show-biz, but it’s not a sexy novel now. It’s a really sad novel about women losing their way, giving up their friendships, their dreams and their integrity for men. There a moments of lucidity, where the women really do support each other, but then the men are real pieces of shit who only care about money, boobs, and themselves. And the women love them anyways and lose themselves.
They are warned, of course, right from the beginning.
“Lyon just walks in with the English charm and the movie-star looks and wham! He comes off with everything he wants. But after a while you realise you don’t know what he’s really like – and what he thinks of you, or of anyone. What I mean is, he seems to like everyone equally. So you get the sense that maybe deep down he doesn’t really care about anyone or anything – except his work. But whatever you think about him you still wind up adoring him.”
Listen! Run, girl! But she didn’t. They never do.